By now, you’ve heard me talk a lot about the Mobile X Festival, the un-conference I’m launching that’s presented by SIXTY, my marketing communications agency.

I’ve mentioned the Mobile X Festival a great deal on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and in the 60 Second Marketer e-newsletter. But what you may not have heard is the reason why we’re doing the event in the first place.

That’s been a question many people have asked me over the past few months.

Of course, one of the reasons is that we hope to make a profit, but that wasn’t the original reason we decided to launch it.

The original reason was quite different. And the best way to answer that question is to tell the story of writing my first book, How to Make Money with Social Media.

At the time, I was working for a digital and direct response agency called BKV. (BKV is also one of the sponsors of the Mobile X Festival.) During the day time, I was in charge of account planning and business development. But in the evening hours and on weekends, I worked on the manuscript for the book.

The book took about 5 months to write, during which time my “nose was buried in the computer 24/7” according to my lovely wife.

But writing a manuscript is only half the battle behind getting a book published. After that, you have to do edits, re-writes, publicity, and a whole slew of other things in order to get the book out the door.

In the end, I probably put a couple of hundred hours into the book – all while doing my regular work for BKV.

By the way, a little known fact about the publishing industry is that a) the average business book only sells 4,000 copies, and b) most authors only make a few thousand dollars on their books.

It’s true. Of course, none of us want to admit that, and I have several good friends who made tens of thousands or, in rare cases, six figures on the sale of their books, but the average business author only makes a few grand.

All this begs another question…

Why on earth would I spend hundreds of hours to write a book only to make a few thousand dollars?

The question above is a good one, and it highlights an important point that’s true in business and in life – sometimes, losing money up-front is an acceptable idea. In fact, sometimes it’s a necessary idea, especially if you’re going to get to the next level.

I have a lot of good friends who admire what I’ve done with my career. (They fail to realize that I’ve failed more times in my life than I’ve succeeded, as outlined in this popular post on the 60 Second Marketer.) When they ask me about the successes I’ve had, I’m quick to point out the issue highlighted above – that sometimes you need to invest and actually lose money up front in order to win on the back-end.

So, even though I didn’t make much money on the books themselves, I made a pile of money on what the books brought to my life.

Once the books came out, I started getting invitations to speak around the globe. (Side note: I love travel, and I love cultures, so seeing the globe while doing business has been an amazing experience.)

In addition to speaking gigs, I got invitations to appear on CNN, HLN and other media outlets. Better still, as a result of being a published author, I was able to email virtually any marketing executive at any company and get a quick response.

None of that would have happened if I hadn’t invested in writing the books.

So, now I find myself with my “nose in the computer 24/7” working on another big initiative – the Mobile X Festival. So far, we have Google, Microsoft, E&J Gallo, CNN, Coca-Cola, Kimberly-Clark and other major brands involved, so things are trending in the right direction.

(Part of the appeal seems to be the fact that it’s an un-conference, so in addition to traditional speeches, we also have Virtual Reality Pods, a Shark Tank competition, a Mobile X Charity Lab, Roundtable Discussions, Food Trucks and a whole lot more.)

Will we make money at Mobile X? Yes and no. If you calculate whether or not our revenues will exceed our hard costs, then the answer is definitely yes. But if you calculate whether or not our revenues will exceed all our costs (which include the soft costs of our labor), then the answer is probably not.

So why would I invest so much time and effort into the Mobile X Festival when there’s no guarantee I’ll make a pile of money?

The answer is, of course, that I’m doing it for the same reason that I wrote the books – as an investment in something that will build awareness for my brand (in this case, SIXTY, the agency) and generate leads for my company.

Where does this leave you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself.

  • What am I able to invest in today from a time or expense point-of-view that will lead me or my business to bigger and better things tomorrow?
  • Is my current business stable enough for me to focus on a new initiative for a few months?
  • Am I passionate about the new initiative? In other words, would my work on it not feel like work because I was so enthusiastic about it?

If you can ask yourself the questions above and get a satisfactory answer, then you might be on your way to investing in something that will grow your business in the long run. After all, if you’re not thinking two steps ahead in business, then you’re not moving in the direction you need to be moving.

So, are you thinking two steps ahead?

About the Author: Jamie Turner is an internationally-recognized author, speaker, and business thought-leader. You’ll find him on the 60 Second Marketer and occasionally as an expert commentator on CNN. He is the founder of SIXTY, a digital and mobile marketing firm working large and small corporations. He is also the founder of the Mobile X Festival, an un-conference for businesses that want to use mobile to grow their sales and revenues. 

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